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February 24, 2023

Philly bike share program aims to increase ridership among low-income residents, teens, people of color

Indego is making a concentrated effort to improve access in disadvantaged communities throughout the city

Transportation Cycling
Indego Equity Plan Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

The strategy includes efforts to improve transportation throughout the city by increasing access to bike stations, especially in underrepresented communities. The plan also aims to address affordability with its pricing structure.

Philadelphia's bike share program is aiming to increase rider access as a part of a new five-year plan.

Indego is specifically seeking to grow ridership among people of color and low-income communities through its new equity plan, which calls for expanded routes in underserved neighborhoods and more e-bikes.

The bike program currently has over 190 stations and more than 1,900 bikes throughout Philadelphia. Within the program's first year, analysis revealed that the least-used rental stations were in areas where the median income is $25,000. 

The plan aims to create a pricing structure that is more representative of the city and would entice more people to actually ride the bikes. There is also an emphasis on eliminating non-financial barriers that can dissuade riders, especially youths aged 14-21 and older adults ages 62 and older. Those barriers include the ability to ride a bike, communication methods, technology access, digital literacy and payment systems.

The city has committed to adding more stations in areas where the majority of people of color and low-income families live over the next five years and will record data that tracks equity performance metrics. 

"Equity shows up in every aspect of our work from how we hire and promote employees to where we install new bike share stations to how we engage staff around social justice issues to our bike share pass and fee structure," Indego general manager Nate Bowman-Johnston said. "The Indego equity plan is an exciting demonstration of our commitment to equity and sets key goals to help make Indego even more equitable for the citizens of Philadelphia and beyond."

Indego is operated by Bicycle Transit Systems; the bicycle share program began in April 2015 with 60 stations and 600 bikes spread throughout Philadelphia.

Throughout the years, the initiative has continued to expand. In 2018, the program targeted 250 stations by 2024, an increase from the 120 stations and over 1,200 bicycles it had at the time of the expansion announcement. 

In December 2020, the bike share program said it would expand again to increase the number of bicycles to 3,500 and double to more than 350 stations across Philly. 

Indego also rolled out electric bicycles in 2018 and expanded to 400 more pedal assist bikes in 2019. According to the equity plan, internal research suggests that the introduction of e-bikes increased ridership in disadvantaged areas — making them a key piece of the expansion.

Over the next decade, Indego and the Bicycle Transit System will bring over $19 million in investments.